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5 Simple Ways to Treat Myofascial Pain

The most notable symptom of myofascial pain syndrome is the appearance of trigger points. These are characterised by tightness and a sensitivity to touch.

Woman holding her left shoulder with her right hand while tilting her head to the side

Myofascial pain syndrome (MPS) is a common and chronic musculoskeletal injury. It originates from trigger points in skeletal muscle, either alone or with other pain generators. However, its onset isn’t necessarily caused by physical factors or related to a person’s environment.

The main symptoms of MPS are: 

  • Pain  
  • Muscle weakness 
  • Sore or tender muscles 
  • Reduced range of motion in an affected area of the body 
  • The appearance of trigger points (small bumps, nodules, or muscle knots that are sensitive to touch)  

Be mindful that these symptoms may also develop in any muscle but mainly affects the upper back, shoulder, and neck. 

Read on to discover the causes of myofascial pain syndrome and the treatment options that can help a person achieve complete recovery.

The Primary Causes of Myofascial Pain Syndrome

Man squeezing his left forearm 
Muscle weakness contributes to myofascial pain syndrome.

Several factors play a role in the onset of myofascial pain. Usually, the pain stems from mechanical factors like scoliosis, unequal leg length, joint hypermobility, or muscle use. Nutrient deficiencies and physical and psychological conditions can also contribute to the condition’s onset. 

Muscle pain associated with low thyroid hormone levels 

Neuromuscular symptoms are often associated with thyroid dysfunction. Hashimoto thyroiditis is the most prevalent autoimmune disease in the world and a common cause of low thyroid hormone levels.

Women of any age are more prone to hypothyroidism than men. The condition can also cause fatigue, cramps, muscle pain or weakness.

Mental health disorders 

Multiple studies show that people with anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are likely to develop myofascial pain syndrome.

A study was performed in 2012 to identify the relationship between depression and trigger points in 76 healthy people. It demonstrated that the onset of the former was closely related to the appearance of the latter.

58% of 101 Croatian war veterans with depression and PTSD also had upper-body myofascial pain. A total of 35 students studied during an academic year had higher anxiety levels and muscle tenderness during examination periods. 

Inflammatory and infectious illnesses 

The potential of localised inflammatory and infectious processes triggering myofascial pain syndrome symptoms is widely known. 

There are two types of chronic pancreatitis pain. The first type –visceral pain – occurs when a person experiences pancreatic inflammation. As the inflammation subsides, the pain will move to the abdominal wall and present as myofascial pain syndrome.

Dysuria (painful urination) is a symptom of a urinary tract infection and is often associated with myofascial pain syndrome. Pelvic floor myofascial pain syndrome affects the levator ani (funnel-shaped muscle on either side of the pelvis) and obturator internus (bilateral, triangle-shaped muscles in the pelvic and gluteal regions).

Body constitution imbalances 

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) believes that a person experiences pain when weakness or obstruction occurs. 

“A proper circulation of blood, qi, and body fluids can keep the body healthy. However, an external contraction of Wind, Cold, and Dampness will attack the muscles and meridians, resulting in pathogenic factors in the bones, joints, and tendons. Subsequently, it’ll obstruct the flow of blood and qi in the Kidney, Liver, and Spleen organ systems. Pathogenic Wind, Cold, Dampness, Heat, Stasis, and phlegm will remain in joints, muscles, tendons, and muscles and obstruct the meridians,” explains Real Health Medical’s Chief Physician Chu I Ta.

5 Steps to Achieving Total Relief from Myofascial Pain Syndrome Symptoms 

Consultation with a healthcare provider is the best way to diagnose myofascial pain syndrome. It comprises four components, such as:  

  • Imaging and diagnostic tests 
  • A visual examination of a person’s gait and posture 
  • A physical examination to identify muscle twitches or tight muscle bands  
  • Questions about the frequency and severity of a person’s symptoms and factors that can worsen their symptoms 

Put yourself through a multi-faceted treatment regimen 

Healthcare providers may combine several treatments to manage pain and heal a person’s muscles. These include: 

  • Ultrasound therapy 
  • Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation therapy 
  • Physical therapy to strengthen, stretch or relax the affected muscles 
  • Low-level light or laser therapy to stimulate the release of pain-relieving chemicals 
  • Dry needling to decrease tightness in trigger points, increase blood flow, and relieve pain 
  • Wet needling to relieve pain by injecting a type of anaesthetic called lidocaine into a trigger point 
  • The “spray and stretch” technique, which requires the spraying of coolant onto, and manual stretching of a muscle area  

Practise a healthy lifestyle at home 

Apply a hot pack or take hot showers to ease muscle tension and reduce pain.

Weight-bearing exercises can help strengthen the muscles. Stretches may improve flexibility and range of motion, while aerobic exercises support the transport of oxygen to the muscles in the body.

People with myofascial pain syndrome should also avoid foods that cause inflammation and practice relaxation techniques like yoga, breathing exercises, and meditation. Relaxation techniques can benefit a person physically and psychologically by stretching and relaxing muscles and decreasing stress. 

Ingesting prescription medications  

Upon diagnosis, a healthcare provider may recommend medications that help address the underlying causes of myofascial pain syndrome. These are: 

  • Antidepressants 
  • Muscle relaxants 
  • Analgesics for pain relief 
  • Sedatives that promote better sleep 
  • Corticosteroids and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to calm inflammation 

Consuming herbal formulas 

A traditional approach involving herbal formulas can correct the body constitution imbalances that provoke the onset of myofascial pain syndrome

For people with Wind-Cold syndrome, a TCM practitioner may propose using Yi Yi Ren Tang (薏苡仁汤) to remove Wind, dissipate Cold, resolve Dampness, and clear the meridians.

Kidney and Liver Deficiencies are treated with Du Huo Ji Sheng Tang (独活寄生汤). The formula will tackle these problems by strengthening the organ systems, relaxing the tendons, and alleviating pain. 

Shen Tong Zhu Yu Tang (身痛逐瘀汤) can help address Blood Stasis and Qi Stagnation. The primary treatment principles of the formulas are to support blood and qi circulation and to clear Stasis and phlegm in the meridians.

Undergo acupuncture treatment

The insertion of fine needles into the skin during acupuncture may offer symptomatic relief for myofascial pain syndrome. A few of the acupoints that can help are: 

  • Shou san li (JI10, 手三里), jian yu (LI15, 肩髃), and jian liao (SJ14, 肩髎) for the arms 
  • Wei zhong (BL40, 委中), yang ling quan (GB34, 阳陵泉), zu san li (ST36, 足三里), and feng long (ST40, 丰隆) for the legs  
  • Shen shu (BL23, 肾俞), da chang shu (BL25, 大肠腧), and huan tiao (GB30, 环跳) for the hips and back 
  • Feng chi (GB20, 风池), jian jing (GB21, 肩井), and feng fu (GV16, 风府) for the neck and shoulders 

Adhering to a treatment plan that a healthcare provider recommends is a person’s best bet against myofascial pain syndrome. If they wish to take an alternative approach, it’s best to speak to a TCM practitioner beforehand. It’ll ensure that the remedies suggested are based on syndrome differentiation and suitable for their specific body constitution.

References

  1. National Library of Medicine. 2013. Myofascial Pain Syndrome: A Treatment Review. [online] [Accessed 6 September 2022]
  2. SpringerLink. 2021. Physical fatigability and muscle pain in patients with Hashimoto thyroiditis. [online] [Accessed 6 September 2022]
  3. National Library of Medicine. 2021. Hypothyroid Myopathy. [online] [Accessed 6 September 2022]
  4. National Library of Medicine. 2020. The Case for Comorbid Myofascial Pain—A Qualitative Review. [online] [Accessed 6 September 2022]
  5. National Library of Medicine. 2020. Ultrasound-Guided Subcostal TAP Block with Depot Steroids in the Management of Chronic Abdominal Pain Secondary to Chronic Pancreatitis: A Three-Year Prospective Audit in 54 Patients. [online] [Accessed 6 September 2022]
  6. National Library of Medicine. 2019. Pelvic floor myofascial pain severity and pelvic floor disorder symptom bother: Is there a correlation? [online] [Accessed 6 September 2022]
  7. Cleveland Clinic. Myofascial Pain Syndrome. [online] [Accessed 6 September 2022]
  8. American Society of Anaesthesiologists. Myofascial Pain Syndrome. [online] [Accessed 6 September 2022]

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